Meetings are a part of our working lives. Yet, as with all aspects of working practices, 2020 was an eye-opener in terms of how meetings can be held. With covid-19 sweeping the planet, the world of commerce and industry had to rethink how they did things. Businesses both large and small were forced to close as travel became restricted to halt the spread of the virus. Only those with essential jobs that could not be done from home were permitted to travel to a place of work.
What effect did this have on meetings? It should have precluded them completely, yet the wonders of modern technology came to the rescue. Video conferencing software became hot property and not just for meetings. Some businesses – training and tutoring, for example, plus counseling and other similar one-to-one practices – moved online and did so successfully.
However, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves as we are here to talk about meetings and how they can be made more productive. Let’s start by looking at the problems with the standard staff, team, or even board meeting.
Common Problems with Meetings
For the article, we’re using an example of a regular meeting of staff to catch up with progress and agree on the way forward for an ongoing project. What problems cause a meeting to stall or become unproductive? Here are some of the most common:
- Widespread disagreement
- Lack of order
- No determined progress point
- Lack of clarity of agenda
- Lack of interest.
These are not comprehensive lists but are simply problems that can occur when a group of people gets together with little preparation. Now let’s talk about some of the ways you can eliminate these problems.
Use a Booking System
What do we mean by a booking system? Check out https://missed.com/ for a good example of a booking and scheduling tool. It’s easy to use and puts the onus on those invited to agree to attend by way of confirmation. It works as follows: the meeting organizer uses the cloud-based calendar system to put out the date to all who are invited. They are required to reply with a confirmation or reason not to attend. This is as simple as it gets. Nearer the time, those who have confirmed will get a reminder and will be reminded again at the time.
The advantage of using such a system is that it eliminates the possibility of no-shows through forgetfulness and keeps everyone informed about the attendees.
Issue an Agenda in Advance
One of the most common problems that cause meetings to stary into disarray is a lack of understanding of what is to be discussed. Some attend believing one subject is to the fore, while others think it is something else. The result is a confused and unproductive meeting that is a waste of everybody’s time.
The answer here is to draw up a plan in advance that needs to be strictly adhered to. This should be distributed to all and acknowledged to show that everyone understands the purpose and subjects to be discussed.
Choose a Chair
Every meeting needs someone to keep order, and that means electing a chair. This can be a manager or a team member, and they may nominate themselves and be seconded. The chair is in place to ensure that the plan is adhered to, and nobody speaks out of turn (see next point).
This should also occur if you are hosting video calls as you are still using remote working practices. The chair will help keep things moving at the right pace and is responsible for completing each point on the agenda and inviting people to say their piece.
Allow Speakers in Turn
The idea of the meeting is to deal with all items on the agenda in a timely and orderly fashion. To ensure this happens, the chair must invite persons who have something to add to speak. Two people arguing or speaking over each other is never productive and will simply add to the time taken up by the meeting.
By letting everyone who needs to contribute do so and having them say their piece of providing their information at a set point of the meeting, things can progress smoothly and without interruption or confusion. The final act should be for everyone to vote on the progression from now to the next step, which is where the voting system comes in.
Use a Formal Voting System
A vote is required if a meeting and the path it inspires has more than one possible outcome. This will ask the persons involved to state their preferences. This could be about one development path, for example, or deployment of budget. Or maybe a marketing campaign and the best way to go about it. Either way, the vote needs to be undertaken publicly and formally to reach a conclusion.
The chair should always be given the casting vote should there be a tie, as this means there is someone to make the final decision either way. For this reason, it is usually the case that the meeting is chaired by a more senior and experienced member of staff with the level of knowledge to make the right decision.
This is undoubtedly how the future of meetings looks in both on-site and remote for, and in fact, this method of arranging a meeting has its roots in Ancient Greece, where the very concept of democracy was born.
No matter the form, any meeting may easily descend into chaos should it not be properly arranged and managed. This is of no desire for anyone involved as everyone simply wants to make decisions and move on to the next step of the process. By following the above steps and advice, you will be able to run efficient, productive meetings and take as little time as possible.